APRIL 2011


Friday 1st

13 to 16 to 14°C. Sunny intervals and light showers. Windy.


Not feeling too good but managed to transplant the Coleus, Rosemary and Nicotinia Perfume and sow Squash Sweet Dumpling, Squash Crown Prince. Broccoli Claret F1, Leek Giant Wibnter, Marigold Naughty Marietta, Calendula cutting mixture and Chrysanthemum Rainbow mixed. Also divided a Citrus pot plant, which Pat was given as a leaving present last year, into four.


Pat finished the shredding. just in time for her birthday tomorrow.


Saturday 2nd

14 to 17 to 12°C. Mild with long sunny intervals and no wind.


Today is Pat's birthday so she didn't do any shredding todayLaughing

Instead we tidied up and mulched the strawberries and planted out some of the brassicas, cabbage Golden Acre and Minicole, early calabrese and broccoli, and sprouts. All inside the fruit cage and covered them all with fleece again.


Sunday 3rd

6 to 12 to 6°C. Sunny intervals but breezy with a few light showers.


Planted out the second lot of Excellenz peas. Potted on the heathers into 5in pots.


The courgettes have grown too big for the propagator. I would have preferred to keep them there since a cold night is forecast but they are pressing against the cover and there is a risk they will damp off if not transplanted. So planted them in 3.5in pots and moved them to the fleece covered box inside the polytunnel. Hopefully they will be OK.


Monday 4th

5 to 11 to 10°C. Windy and wet.


Kirstin came with her toddler Anna to visit for the day so spent time with them rather than in the garden, not that the weather would have let me anyway. Even so it was a shame the weather was so bad because Anna wanted to go outside. We did look  round the garden a couple of times and she enjoyed looking at and feeding the hens. The rest of time we spent inside reading books and playing with old toys from when Sarah and Kirstin were her age, but new to her of course!! It was nice of them to come and see us; we don't see our grandchildren very often as they live quite far away.


Tuesday 5th

14 to 17 tov 12°C. A much better day with no wind and long sunny spells.


Transplanted the Marigold Bonita and Nicotinia Lime Green. Earthed up the potted potatoes again; most pots are now full and the plants are growing strongly in this warm weather. Also potted on some of the potatoes we grew from our own stored sprouted tubers.


Wednesday 6th

14 to 20 to 13°C. Warm and bright. Sunny in the evening and light enough for us to go for a walk.


We started to cut out the pernicious weeds from the wild garden; docks, nettles, dead nettle, cleavers, cow parsley, creeping buttercup, thistles, bramble, rye grass etc. It might be described as wild but given the chance these would completely take over. The only way to do this is to cut them below the surface with a sharp trowel. It won't get rid of them forever but long enough for other wild and semi-wild plants to get established. Sowed some more wild flower seed in trays to grow plants to fill the spaces where they haven't seeded naturally.


Thursday 7th

7 to 16 to 8°C. Not as warm or bright as yesterday but still a nice Spring day.


Pat mowed the lawn and I watered it with a high nitrogen fertiliser. There are a lot of dandelions, daisies and thistles in it and I hoping that the fertiliser will cause them to grow strongly so I can knock them back with a selective herbicide. I don't like using chemicals in the garden but it is getting so bad I feel we have no choice in this case.


Strimmed the verges before the cow parsley starts to grow too high. It will be weeks before the council gets round to doing it, assuming with all the austerity they still can afford to. Living on a bend in the road, with traffic going far too fast for such a minor road, it is important we can see far enough both ways to get safely out of the drive both by bicycle and car. Not a job I look forward to with cars passing inches away at speeds way above the 60 mph limit on a road barely wide enough for two way traffic. Sure they are breaking the law but who its going to catch them with the police slightly less common than a Blue Moon round here. You would think with the ever rising cost of petrol they would drive a little slower to save money.


Friday 8th

3 to 17 to 7°C. Similar day to yesterday with only wispy clouds in a clear blue sky.


Still no signs of rain and very warm for the time of year. I don't like complaining but this unseasonal weather is beginning to look like the same as last year and I am spending quite a lot of time watering young plants in both the vegetable and flower gardens and in the polytunnel. That 2000L of rain water we had a couple of weeks ago is rapidly running out.


The potted potatoes are getting too big to stay in the polytunnel, growing much to quickly and the stems are likely to flop over. So I moved them outside at least 2 weeks earlier than I intended. Hopefully we won't get a frost in the next few nights; I am covering them with fleece just in case. The plums are also flowering early and they will be damaged if we get a frost at night. Clear skies might give you warm sunshine during the day but they also can lead to cold nights this early in the year.


Saturday 9th

5 to 21 to 8°C. Early mist but soon cleared to a very sunny day.


We ate the last of last year's parsnips yesterday so it is time to sow this years in the same place, in the soft shade of the Bramley apple tree between the house and the vegetable garden. gave it good fork over,removing all stones, even little ones (we don't want too many with forked roots) and raked it into the 'fine tilth' they always talk about in gardening books. Then made four 1cm drills about 30cm apart and sowed the seed every 3-4cm along them, finally covering with a well sieved mixture of soil and compost. They take a long time to germinate so I then covered each drill with a V shaped cover of galvanised wire mesh (slugs don't like the zinc), watered well and then finally with a sheet of fleece to keep the temperature even and the moisture in.


Spent the rest of the afternoon watering both outside and in the polytunnel. Still no signs of any rain.


Sunday 10th

6 to 21 to 11°C. Very similar day to yesterday. The forecast tomorrow is cooler maybe even with a shower?


Planted out the heat treated onion sets, Red Baron and Hytech, which I have been sprouting in trays. These are the ones which should keep well into next year.


Spent the rest of the day tidying and watering.


Monday 11th

8 to 13 to 6°C. Back to normal April weather with sunny intervals and light showers though I would still like a good 2 hour downpour to water the garden properly and fill my water butts.


Pat noticed whitefly on the plants in the conservatory so she moved them outside to spray them with soap solution which usually does the trick. She then went back to clearing the larger weeds from the wild garden while I finished tidying up the chrysanthemums. A lot of these appear to be dead even though overwintered in the polytunnel. Maybe continuous temperatures below -10°C for several weeks last November-December was too much even for them. We have certainly lost a lot of shrubs and parts of the cypress hedge looks dead as well.


Tuesday 12th

3 to 12 to 6°C. A mainly cloudy day with a chilly breeze. Kept looking like it might rain but never did so.


Pat continued weeding the wild garden. I put some composted chippings mulch beneath the apple trees which the chickens had a great time scratching to catch all the little beasties and do me a service by spreading it out nice and evenly.


Mixed yet more soil from the old turf mound and seived compost to earth up the last of the potted potatoes, Rubesse. Those peas planted in 10L pots are at least 2 weeks ahead of the ones outside. I put three 4ft canes in each pot and wound string round them as support. Looks like my idea to get some earlier peas might work.


Wednesday 13th

6 to 9 to 7°C. Overcast and damp with a penetrating chilly wind. Not damp enough to really wet the soil though.


Nothing much left to do in the polytunnel and not very nice working outside even with 2 extra layers of clothes so a bit of a none day in the garden.


Thursday 14th

7 to 11 to 8°C. Overcast but with very little wind so feeling much warmer.


The strawberries have all started to flower so took off the fleece from all of them. There are lots of bumble bees around so they will soon be fertilised.


Dug over the bed in front of the greenhouse in preparation to sow some salad crops tomorrow.


Pat tried to get more bindweed out of the raspberries. They are also showing signs of flower buds. The cherry trees are in full flower.


Friday 15th

8 to 14 to 11°C. Overcast and very humid. Feeling thundery in the afternoon but stayed dry.


Received some Mimulus plug plants in the post. 50 + 20 free but there were 12 of each of 6 varieties in the 72 cell tray. Taking them out to plant into larger 12 cell trays there were 2 plants in most so ended up with 4 x 23 and 2 x 22 altogether.


Sowed some rows of salad in the bed in front of the greenhouse. Lettuce Babylon and a cut and come mix. Mesclun and mixed salad leaves, Carrot Harlequin, Salad Onion Guardsman and Radish French Breakfast. Covered them all with fleece till they germinate.


Saturday 16th

5 to 15 to 10°C. Sunny first thing but thin high clouded by afternoon.  Feeling warm with no wind. Clear again by night


Moved the potatoes started in pots from sprouted ones from our own stored down to where the second early and main crops are already planted. Once they have grown a little more I intend to plant them in trenches and slowly earth them up. Another experiment.


Planted out the second crop of broad beans started in the polytunnel. I started some second early peas at the same time but they haven't germinated so I am going to try starting some more after soaking them and laying them between paper towels till they start to sprout. An old trick which works with sweet peas. Maybe I will try the same with dwarf beans which I also have trouble starting.


Sunday 17th

3 to 17 to 9°C. Clear and sunny with some cloud in the afternoon.


This weather is becoming very much the same as last years; unseasonably warm and dry but still quite cold at night with a risk of frost. The temperature in the polytunnel this afternoon was 31°C. The problem is that these high temperatures are causing the tomatoes especially to grow very rapidly but I daren't plant them out in the open part of the polytunnel because of the cold nights and because there is always a risk we may get several days of colder weather in the next few weeks. So they need to stay in the fleece covered boxes at night.


Trouble is they were getting too large for their original pots. Coir compost is fine for the first potting but it is difficult to keep it watered enough in these hot conditions so I spent most of  today re-potting them from their 8cm pots into 18cm ones using a mixture of half soil and half sieved compost. This should be easier to keep moist and keep them going till mid May when I can safely plant them out in the open beds. We have nearly used up all the stored rainwater so its looks like I will need to fill some of the butts from the well till it rains.


What with the very cold weather last winter killing off many of the shrubs, a lot of the hedging and all the giant grasses and now this Spring drought yet again these are testing times for gardeners. Maybe this is a permanent change to the climate or it will revert back to normal next year. Who knows? Is this Climate Change in action or just part of a cycle?


Monday 18th

5 to 17 to 10°C. Misty first thing then sunny but high cloud by afternoon. Cleared again at night.


Watered the brassicas and strawberries in the fruit cage, something I don't expect to have to do at this time of year but the soil is so parched it is cracking on the surface. Still quite moist when you dig deeper but anything with shallow roots is wilting.


Moved part of the barrier round the chicken run to bring the area between the fruit cage and the apple trees into use for root crops, turnip, beetroot and carrots mainly. It needs a good dig over; it is amazing how just the hens walking over it for a few weeks has compacted it. But they are very good at getting rid of pests and weeds in the top 5cm.


Tuesday 19th

3 to 19 to 11°C. Very misty and quite cold but soon cleared and then wall to wall sunshine and blue skies till dusk. Looks like it may be even colder tonight so put fleece over the potted potatoes.


Now we can get at the fruit cage all the way round decided to put the smaller mesh blackbird proof net over the top of it. This is a big job; the net is 10metres square with a diamond mesh and very difficult to pull over straight.. There are a few small holes in it which I don't remember seeing when we took it off last autumn (it can't stay on in winter because of the risk of snow weighing it down). There are also some holes in the bag we store it in so I suspect the culprit is mice which seem to like making nests from plastic. Sometime before the strawberries ripen those holes will need repairing.


Noticed 6 buzzards rising on the thermals above the garden. They usually go  in pairs. While on my bike ride I noticed a skylark hovering over a field but I couldn't hear it singing. The first I have seen or heard for several years. Maybe this might also be the year to hear cuckoos as well? One turned up last year but only for a couple of days; I assume it couldn't find a mate.


More watering in the polytunnel. Now using well water; the rain water is nearly all gone.


Wednesday 20th

3 to 20 to 12°C. Very similar to yesterday.


Some more small plants arrived in the post. A collection of 18 fuchsias and 18 incurved chrysanthemums. Potted these on. Also finished potting on the rest of the tomatoes and squashes. Then more watering.


Thursday 21st

8 to 22 to 12°C. More unseasonal weather just like yesterday only even warmer.


Dug over and raked another bed inside the fruit cage and planted with Borecole Dwarf Green Curled, my favourite winter green leaf vegetable. Then more watering.


Chased away a grey squirrel trying to get into the long peanut feeder. I wouldn't mind them taking some food if it wasn't for the fact that they try to bite their way through the mesh. So coated the poles supporting the feeding station with more used engine oil. Slippery and foul tasting. That should deter it for a while Angry


Good Friday 22nd

10 to 22 to 12°C. Started off clear but clouded over in the afternoon feeling very muggy by evening. Caught the edge of what sounded like quite a violent thunderstorm moving North to the West of us. Enough rain to wet the garden but not enough to fill the water butts.


The squirrel came back with two more. One of them took a flying leap from a tree several metres away and landed on top of the feeding station then another one, the biggest, actually managed to jump more than a metre from the nearby hedge straight onto the peanut feeder.  These are the two feeders outside the inverted plastic box we keep the smaller feeders inside. Removed these two outside feeders; the birds still have two peanut and three sunflower feeders inside which they can get at but the squirrels can't, unless one of them is so agile it can jump 150cm straight up from the ground. They can't climb down the side of the box as it is two slippery to cling onto, though they still try, falling off every time. I can't hang the longer feeders inside the box because they are close enough to the ground to jump up to. Anyway the birds are losing interest in the food as they usually do by this time of year so I have a few months to decide on another method to keep the 'tree rats' away. Short of cutting down the hedge and all surrounding trees I can't see how at the moment.


Planted out the potatoes I had grown in pots from the those which sprouted in our store. They were big enough to earth up as well and several weeks ahead of those I planted directly outside. Not as advanced as the early varieties also in pots, the Swift especially also have some small tubers swelling on them. This warm weather is certainly good for them as it is for the tomatoes, peppers and squashes in pots in the polytunnel. These will soon need to be planted out.


Pat discovered she had more frozen raspberries than she needed to make jam before this years crop is ready. We thawed some out and I mixed them with some greek yogurt for desert. Delicious!!


The peas I placed on wet paper towels have sprouted nicely so I planted these in 9 cell trays, three to each cell. Hopefully these will grow a lot better than the last lot which I planted dry directly into tray. Only 5 germinated in 8 trays!!


Saturday 23rd

7 to 18 to 7°C. Sunny in the morning and early afternoon but rather hazy in the distance. Came windy and much colder late in the afternoon and looked like it might rain. Heavy rain showers both North, West and South but somehow missed us.


Raked over the bed between the fruit cage and the apple trees I had dug over earlier in the week and sowed carrots, turnip, beetroot and spinach. Also planted out the celery I had started in the polytunnel last month.


Some begonia plugs came in the post so I planted these into 12 cell trays. Also planted French beans, Sonesta in trays after soaking and sprouting them in a similar way to the peas.


Easter Sunday 24th

7 to 16 to 7°C. Sunny intervals but with a northerly wind feeling much cooler.


Still no rain and much of the garden is very dry so spent a couple of hours watering in the vegetable garden and plants still in pots. Pat finished weeding down the side and the bottom of the drive.


Now that the temperature is back nearer to normal it is safe to sow the cucumber, pumpkin and butternut squash in the propagator. From past experience I know these need a high temperature, around 25°C ,to germinate but taking it much higher than this can cause them to fail. So it wasn't a good idea to sow them when the temperature was above 30°C during the afternoon in the polytunnel. Sowed all three in 6 cell trays, making sure they were on the edge.


Also sowed the climbing and runner beans, after soaking them overnight, Runner beans in 9 cell trays and climbing beans in 12 cell trays. These also need quite a lot of heat to start them.


Easter Monday 25th

7 to 14 to 6°C. Sunny intervals but with a cold northerly wind

Finally got round to cutting back the giant grasses which I had assumed were dead from the frost. The Zebra Grass is actually still alive, just, with a few green shoots coming up in the middle. The 5 metre high Elephant Grass though, has died. We made a start on trying to clear it, hacking into the now rotting interior, but it is a big job and will take another day to finish. The only good thing is that, when shredded, it will make quite a large amount of compost.


Transplanted the leek seedlings into 20 cell trays and left them to soak overnight.


Tuesday 26th

9 to 13 to 9°C. Thin cloud with occasional glimpses of the sun. Cold northerly wind.


Continued to cut into the remains of the elephant grass using a 24in bow saw. Got nearly to the bottom of it when I noticed some bumble bees flying around it quite agitatedly. They have built a nest in the base so I decided not to cut any more away. We need those bumble bees to fertilise the broad beans, peas, strawberries and raspberries.


Wednesday 27th

8 to 16 to 10°C. Cold NE wind but very sunny so felt warm if sheltered from this wind. The forecast for later tonight and early morning is for a frost so I have covered the potatoes with fleece as a precaution.


Continuing tidying up down the drive after cutting back the grasses have now started on the holly hedge.  Every three years or so I cut this down to around 150cm but it grows again to over 3m shading half the vegetable garden. Lots more shredding for Pat!!


Sarah is coming to stay for the next three days for a rest from her three boys so I don't know how much gardening will get done during that time.


Thursday 28th

0 to 17 to 9°C. A very sunny day but still with cold NE wind.


Sarah went for a long bike ride on her own in the afternoon so managed to finish cutting the holly hedge. Then more watering!!


Friday 29th

6 to 18 to 10°C. Hazy sun in the morning with increasing thin cloud in the afternoon. Feeling humid but no rain!!


Watched part of the Royal Wedding more for the music than the spectacle. Sarah went for yet another solo bike ride in the afternoon so I started to plant out the tomatoes in the polytunnel.


Saturday 30th

8 to 19 to 10°C. Clear sky all day with a blustery East wind.


Sarah went back home at lunchtime and I spent most of the afternoon watering. It is now 4 weeks since it last rained.  However, all this hot sunny weather (for the time of year) is making everything grow, provided it gets enough water. No frosty nights mean the plums, cherries, pears and apples have all got a good set of fruit and the strawberries are very advanced with the earliest ones already swelling.


MAY 2011